Quick Links

Need to Know: Inconsistent Eagles, Redskins meet with NFC East on the line

garcon-stiffarm-vs-eagles.png

Need to Know: Inconsistent Eagles, Redskins meet with NFC East on the line

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, December 23, three days before the Washington Redskins travel to Philadelphia to play the Eagles.

Five early thoughts on Redskins vs. Eagles

—How good are the Eagles? Are they as bad as they looked against a couple of mediocre teams in the Bucs and the Lions? Or are they as good as the team that beat the Patriots? Sure, they had some good fortune in Foxborough but that’s a tough place to win under any circumstances. Like the Redskins they have been inconsistent from week to week. But unlike Washington, they haven’t alternated good and bad weeks; they have been streaky. That makes them harder to figure out.

—The Philly defense hasn’t been hard to figure out lately. The Eagles have given up over 400 yards of offense in six of their last seven games. They have been gashed on the ground lately, giving up a combined 382 yards to the Bills and Cardinals. It’s probably too much to hope for the Redskins to get their dormant running game going but the opportunity may be there.

—Eagles QB Sam Bradford had an odd day against the Redskins in Week 4. He only completed 54 percent of his passes but he threw three touchdown passes, averaged 9.6 yards per attempt, and posted a 122.6 passer rating. Cornerback Chris Culliver was hurting but he gamely gave it a go that day but he was ineffective. Wide receiver Jordan Matthews had been slumping before last Sunday with an average of just 30 receiving yards per game in his last five. But he broke out of it with eight catches for 158 yards and a touchdown against the Cardinals. Sure, a good chunk of his production came in garbage time, especially a 78-yard TD reception when the Eagles trailed 37-10 in the fourth quarter. But he is still a weapon to watch.

—For a while the Eagles were among the better teams in the NFL in terms of turnover ratio. After nine games they had accumulated a plus-six margin. But in their last five games they have given the ball away 12 times and taken it away just four times. Taking out my handy calculator, that makes them minus-two on the year. The Redskins have been in a bit of a takeaway slump with just one in their last two games after getting six in their two before that. We will see of Washington can get a few takeaways.

—I have no idea what to expect on Saturday. I do think that the Redskins will be ready to play. The win over the Bills was one of the least celebrated in recent memory. The players know that it likely means nothing if they don’t take care of business in Philly. There was much more of a determined atmosphere than a celebratory one. For their part, the Eagles were frustrated after their 23-point loss to the Cardinals. Of course, moods can change over the course of the week and we’ll see how things look when Saturday night rolls around.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 11:35; Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins news conferences and player availability after practice, approx. 1:30

Days until: Redskins @ Eagles 3; Redskins @Cowboys 11; start of NFL playoffs 17

In case you missed it

Quick Links

Need to Know: Redskins looking for consistency from Preston Smith

Need to Know: Redskins looking for consistency from Preston Smith

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, December 9, two days before the Washington Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Practice 12:05; Jay Gruden and news conference and open locker room after practice approx. 2:00

Days until: Panthers @ Redskins 10; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 15; Giants @ Redskins, New Year’s Day 23

Injuries of note vs. Cardinals:
Out:
G Long (concussion), S Blackmon (concussion), DE Baker (ankle), G Shawn Lauvao (groin)
Limited: TE Reed (shoulder), G Scherff (ankle), DE Jean Francois (knee/foot),
Thursday injury report

Around Redskins Park

—The Redskins’ third-down defense is the worst in the NFL in a long time. They are giving up first downs on 48 percent of opponents’ third downs. Since 2002 only one team, the 2011 Chargers, has been worse over the course of a full season. The Redskins have a chance to improve in the last four games of the season. Their remaining opponents rank 15th, 22nd, 26th, and 27th in converting third downs on offense. So, while the damage is done perhaps they can avoid historically bad territory.

—Perhaps one of the reasons why the Redskins haven’t done well on third down is because Preston Smith, a player they were counting on to generate pass pressure and rack up sacks, isn't getting that done. He has 3.5 sacks on the year, two of them coming into one game. What are they looking for out of Smith? “Consistency is the truest measure of performance,” said defensive coordinator Joe Barry. “You have got to show up every single week . . . Preston is giving great effort, he’s trying. He just has got to show up in the statistic column.”

—Barry was candid in admitting that they were taken by surprise when the Cardinals snapped the ball on the fourth and one play from their own 34 in the fourth quarter. “I think everyone was a little shocked that the ball actually was snapped and they ran a play, but that’s football,” Barry said. The center’s hand is on the ball, ball is ready, the ball can be snapped, we have got to be ready to execute.” Should the season go south from here that play will be remembered as the turning point.

—Although whether or not the season goes south will largely be dependent on the play of Kirk Cousins, he doesn’t think about the pressure. “I just go about my business. I think you take it one game at a time, that’s the best way to manage it, and just enjoy the process,” he said. “We’ll see where we are in a few weeks but I can’t play the game today, I can’t play next week’s game today. All I can do today is prepare and go to practice and have a great practice, and I thought today I had a great practice and that’s a good step.”

—Jay Gruden wants to see the defense improve in two specific areas in addition to third downs. “Turnovers the last couple of weeks and red zone,” he said. “Those are three big time areas of concern . . . We’ve been lacking in all three of those categories of late.” They have had just one takeaway in their last three games and in their last five games teams have punched it into the end zone on 14 of 17 red zone opportunities (82.3%).

Tandler on Instagram

A little more left arm use by Reed on this catch. #Redskins

A video posted by Rich (@richtandler) on

In case you missed it

Quick Links

Redskins injury report: Three return but still plenty of question marks

Redskins injury report: Three return but still plenty of question marks

The Redskins’ injury report is looking a little better today, three days away from their game against the Eagles. 

DE Chris Baker (ankle), CB Will Blackmon (concussion), T Ty Nsekhe (ankle), C Spencer Long (concussion) didn't practice today. That is a substantial reduction of the number of players who were out of practice on Wednesday.

Going from out yesterday to limited participants today were S Donte Whitner (illness), DE Ricky Jean Francois (knee/foot), and DE Anthony Lanier (leg).

Also limited were TE Derek Carrier (knee), ILB Will Compton (hip), TE Jordan Reed (shoulder), G Brandon Scherff (ankle), and OLB Preston Smith (groin).

A player moving from out of practice to limited is no guarantee that he will be able to participate come Sunday but it’s a step in the right direction.

On area of concern is the offensive line. Three players who started against the Cardinals have not practiced this week. One was Nsekhe and he already was headed to the bench after the return of Trent Williams from suspension.

RELATED: Five Redskins who need to perform vs. Eagles

According to Jay Gruden, the line will have enough bodies even if Long, Nsekhe, and Lauvao are out. Second year guard Arie Kouandjio would start at guard and John Sullivan, who finished up after Long left the game on Sunday, would be the starting center. They could activate Kory Lichtensteiger from injured reserve to back up guard and center and Vinston Painter would be the backup tackle.

It appears that Reed is making progress from the AC joint separation he suffered in his left shoulder on Thanksgiving Day in Dallas.

“He looked good out there today,” said Gruden. “He’s still a little sore. Right now I have absolutely no idea (if he will play).”